All six campaigns completed the questionnaire. Every candidate indicated support for people with disabilities in the areas of housing, health care, education, employment and transportation, answering each question about the issues affirmatively. Each candidate also supported the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, answering 'yes' to the question: “Do you support the maintenance and expansion of the Mayor's Office on People with Disabilities and its programs?”
“The full participation of the candidates is a hopeful message to people with disabilities,” said Kimberly Wilson, the Women and Girls Organizing Coordinator at Access Living. “We look forward to working together with the candidates and with the future mayor on issues that support the inclusion and independence of people with disabilities.””
Results of the questionnaire will be compiled and distributed widely amongst organizations serving Chicago's 600,000 people with disabilities. The distribution will offer people who may not otherwise have access to the mayoral campaigns practical information about the candidates and will help promote understanding about candidates' knowledge of and commitment to issues vital to the disability community.
The questionnaire issued to candidates stems from a 10 Point Core Issue Platform developed by Access Living. The platform lists the top priorities of the Access Living community related to the Mayoral Election. The platform calls for accessibility, affordability and integration across Chicago's education, employment, housing, health care, transportation, and housing efforts. In addition, the platform stresses the importance of giving voice to the disability community. High on the list of priorities is maintaining and expanding the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, and appointing people with disabilities to local boards, councils and commissions. Chicago is one of only a handful of cities with a position at the level of Commission dedicated to serving the disability community and filled by a person with a disability. “We are thrilled that each candidate supports maintaining and building upon the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities,” said Amber Smock, Access Living's Director of Advocacy. “This is a vital step in our efforts to move forward on issues of accessibility, inclusion and participation.”
People with disabilities represent approximately 20 percent of the population in Chicago. Though the disability numbers surpass seniors, other protected classes, and other traditional voting blocks, people with disabilities and disability related issues are not often addressed by candidates for office. One reason is disability turn–out at the polls. Historically, because of inaccessible locations, equipment, and procedures, people with disabilities have been unable to fully participate on Election Day. Locally and nationally, improved polling place accessibility has coincided with increased turn–out and increased efforts to organize the disability community as voting block.
“For many years, people with disabilities in Chicago and nationwide were shut out of the electoral process,” said Smock. “But that is changing. With increased awareness and increased accessibility, the disability community looks forward to using the electoral process as a tool to push for policies and initiatives that support our independence and full participation in the community.”
A compilation of questionnaire results and the Access Living Core Issues Platform is available online at www.accessliving.org.
Established in 1980, Access Living is a non–profit, Chicago–based disability rights and service organization that provides individualized, peer–based services for people with disabilities. With a strong influence in public policy and social reform, Access Living is a leading force in the community. Committed to challenging stereotypes, protecting civil rights and breaking institutional and community barriers, Access Living is a nationally recognized change agent at the forefront of the disability rights movement. For more information, contact Gary Arnold at Garnold@accessliving.org, 312–640–2199 (voice).